“We Need to Face Reality Here”: Hospitals Must Prepare for the Next Pandemic
What Hospitals Must Do to Avert the Next Pandemic
Certainly, many critical pandemic precautions fall beyond the scope of hospitals. Governments, for example, must invest in more robust pathogenic surveillance — that is, sampling of animal populations to detect viruses that lurk — and in the development of vaccines that protect against multiple viruses at once. At the same time, much can be done at the hospital level.
Covid-19 Pandemic Effect On Hospitals
When Covid-19 struck, overrun emergency departments not only lacked the staff to care for infected patients but also lacked sufficient personal protective gear. On top of that, public-health experts assumed SARS-CoV-2 did not spread via aerosol, the same deadly and erroneous assumption that had been made decades earlier with measles and tuberculosis.
As a result, Covid-19 ripped through hospitals. A review of early cases in China found 44% of Covid-19 infections were hospital acquired. At a hospital in South Africa, a single case led to 119 infections and 15 deaths among staff and patients at five hospital wards, a nursing home, and dialysis unit. Eventually, precautions and protocols changed. Today, lessons learned from the early Covid period are driving hospital planning for the next pandemic.
Increasing surge capacity is a top priority, and plans run the gamut. Some hospitals are training rheumatologists and pediatricians to jump to intensive care in a pinch. Others are looking to architectural solutions, such as airport-like docking stations with interlocking modules that could quickly expand the emergency department — an improvement over the tent-in-the-parking-lot approach hospitals deployed at the height of the Covid crisis.
“Most EDs are poorly designed to protect staff, other patients, and visitors from highly contagious airborne transmission of an epidemic disease,” says Frank Zilm an architect specializing in healthcare design at the University of Kansas in the United States.
A hospital in Italy installed a “plug-in biocontainment pod” devised from a shipping container. In Los Angeles, architects are working on a way to erect, within days, a medical mini-city that could accommodate 1,000 patients and 6,000 staff.
Less grand and expensive ways of defending against pandemic disease include zero-contact intake systems, which allow for remote triage and patient registration. At one Boston hospital, for example, an iPad-equipped robot named Spot acts as intermediary between medical staff and potentially infectious patients. Still, all the innovations in architecture, robotics, and telemedicine won’t change reality: Hospitals are full of human beings, including infectious ones who need to be cared for, up close, by medical staff, and who share the same air as vulnerable patients on the premises.
That’s why hundreds of hospitals have turned to air dis-infection, particularly Novaerus NanoStrike technology by WellAir, as a means of preventing spread of Covid-19 and other airborne diseases, current and future.
Even before SARS-CoV-2 emerged, hospital-acquired infections — whether caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi — were endemic. Each year in high income countries, 5% to 10% of hospitalized patients, including 30% of patients in intensive care units, were contracting an infection during their stay. Before Covid-19, in Europe and the United States, hospital pathogens were infecting nearly 6 million patients annually and were responsible for 140,000 deaths.
Covid-19 has only amplified the crisis and brought more attention to the airborne route of transmission.
NanoStrike is the unique, patented technology at the core of all Novaerus portable air dis-infection devices. The nanotechnology harnesses a range of physical concurrent pathogen inactivation process to safely dis-infect the air. Hospitals in over 65 countries have deployed Novaerus devices, particularly in operating rooms, intensive care units, emergency departments, waiting rooms, and surgical theatres.
Independent laboratory testing shows that within 15 minutes, the Novaerus Defend 1050 achieves a 99.99% reduction of the MS2 bacteriophage RNA virus, an accepted surrogate for SARS-CoV-2.
NanoStrike technology has shown similar efficacy with other airborne pathogens that hover in hospitals, including influenza, Clostridium difficile, Aspergillus, and surrogates for Measles virus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA).
In a 2015 article titled “The Next Pandemic: Hospital Management,” three physicians wrote: “The threat of pandemic infectious disease lurks quietly beneath the surface of everyday hospital operations and society at large.”
Though “moments of panic inspire waves of planning,” the doctors continued, the waves inevitably crest, planning becomes submerged by daily demands, and ultimately, nothing changes.
Post-Covid, of course, complacency is impossible. Hospitals, nursing homes, society at large — we’ve all experienced a tidal wave, and the threat of the next one can’t be ignored.
Even when the Covid pandemic ends, SARS-CoV-2 will remain among us, and the next pandemic pathogen will almost certainly be airborne as well. No matter what other precautions hospitals invest in, they must also upgrade their air dis-infection technology, one of the least expensive and most effective defenses against the spread of deadly disease.